Pickles gives final approval for 1,350-home Berkshire scheme

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has given the final go-ahead for up to 1,350 homes on land at Shinfield outside Wokingham in Berkshire.

Along with the new homes, the application, which was submitted by the University of Reading, includes plans for a local centre with a foodstore and other retail and leisure uses, a community building, the proposed extension of existing primary schools, the erection of a new primary school, public open space and a sports pavilion.

The application went to a public inquiry after Wokingham Borough Council failed to decide upon it within the prescribed timescale.

A decision letter sent on behalf of Pickles last month said he was "minded to approve" the proposals but that a final decision would not be taken until Natural England, which is a statutory consultee on planning applications that may affect protected wildlife or habitats, stated whether it would withdraw its objections to the proposals following commitments from the developer on mitigation measures to curb any negative impact on the nearby heathlands.

A fresh letter sent out this week by the Department for Communities and Local Government said Natural England had now responded saying that it believed, in order to avoid a negative impact on the heathlands, the scheme’s developers would need to contribute towards the monitoring of the heathlands and that this requirement should be placed within planning obligations.

Granting approval for the scheme, the letter said Pickles had concluded that such a contribution was "necessary and that, with its provision, there is not likely to be a significant effect on the (heathlands) from the proposals".

Consultancy Barton Wilmore acted on behalf of the University of Reading. Ian Tant, senior partner, said: "This decision is an important step towards delivering much needed homes for Wokingham in this strategic location south of the M4. There is still much work to be done, but the secretary of state has set out firm principles on which to base further planning applications."

The decision letter (DCS Number 100-079-292) can be purchased from DCS Ltd (tel) 01452 835820 or email dcs@haymarket.com

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